Plastic Recycling and Life Cycle Considerations

Plastic Recycling

Throughout the years, recycling has been a part of major environmental efforts to reduce plastic waste all over the world. 

As a manufacturer of rigid plastic containers, we understand that recyclability and longer life cycles are two of the most important things that our customers are looking for in our products. And whilst, it is true that there are very limited options to achieve full recyclability of plastics, we are always on the lookout for innovative ways to meet this need.

Australian Packaging Covenant

The Australian Packaging Covenant is an agreement between the Australian, State and Territory governments and the packaging industry, which aims to:

  • Optimise resource recovery of consumer packaging through the supply chain
  • Prevent the impacts of fugitive packaging on the environment.

Among the agreement’s key objectives is to develop strategies to recover and reuse packaging across industry sectors and supply chains.

Pool Chemicals and Chlorine Industry

Recently, the pool chemical and chlorine industries have started testing this method of recovering and reusing packaging containers. 

Consumers return their used container to the supply company and the supply company then returns the container back to chemical manufacturer. The containers are washed, and dried, and then returned to the same supply company to be refilled with similar products and sold to the same consumers.

Initially, this method was introduced for the cost-effectiveness of pool chemicals and had the additional benefit of recyclability of the containers.

Companies reuse their 15 and 20-litre containers for a maximum of 5 years from the manufacturing date of the container. A customer buys a container of the pool chemical, pours it into their pool and after use, takes the container back to the store to have it replaced with another container of the product.

Customers pay a deposit once, for the container when they first purchase, which is usually around $10. They then return the empty container for exchange for a full one. They just pay for the product (contents) from that point on.

There are, however, a number of risks associated with reusing industrial containers, as there is no guarantee that the end-user will not cross-contaminate the products. Many industrial chemicals may explode when put together and can cause a potential safety hazard.

Compostable Plastic Containers – Bio Plastics

Polylactic acid (PLA), also known as starch resin, is a type of thermoplastic polymer derived from renewable fermented resources, like cornstarch or sugarcane.

Starch plastics are bio-compostable. They decompose on their own under certain conditions, which means they cannot be simply thrown away in recycling bins so as not to defeat the purpose of these bins. And because it is compostable, it degrades quickly and may not be suitable for large rigid plastic containers.

Hemp plastics are made from the stalk of the hemp plant.

Hemp bioplastic is an affordable, natural fibre composite that can be used to replace oil-based materials. Biodegradable, recyclable and toxin-free – hemp bioplastic can help address many pressing environmental issues.

Biodegradable containers

Class Plastics mainly uses high-density polyethylene (HDPE) to manufacture our containers, which is by far stronger than any other standard polymer. It is also the easiest type of plastic to recycle. 

From what we have seen, there are biodegradable resins out there with additives that may be suitable for smaller containers but not for rigid plastic containers like ours. The entry cost for most of these resins is also twice as much as that of standard polymers that are available in the marketplace.

Whilst we don’t see the possibility of manufacturing biodegradable containers at the moment, we are continually on the lookout for innovative ideas around plastic recycling and life cycles. There’s a long way to go for plastics to be fully recyclable and biodegradable but we firmly believe that our technology is getting there.

If you’re in a business that relies on quality plastic and environmentally friendly containers to maintain your trading reputation, talk to us.

Resources: Australian Packaging Covenant Strategic Plan Overview 2017-2022

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Mario Nastri

Mario Nastri is currently a director/shareholder of Class Plastics Aust., Class Plastics QLD. & Class Packaging SA. In his past endeavors he has worked as a biochemist & physiologist at the University of Naples, Federico II 1993-1997, concentrating on aquaculture, marine pollution & during the winter months Cryogenics & IVF research & development, holding a Bachelor of Science majoring in Pharmacology & Biochemistry from Monash University. Mario also has a strong logistics background having managed a fleet of heavy vehicles which was part of a family owned business in the 1980’s & 90’s, transporting quarry stone, sand & asphalt for road surfacing. He has been with Class Plastics since 1999 & has extensive Blow molding knowledge which he has acquired over the past 20 years. He has extensive knowledge in managing a manufacturing business & overseeing a staff of 40 odd people across 4 states & 24 hour operations. He is committed to the continuous improvement of every department of the Class Plastics business, from improving manufacturing processes to creating energy via a 365Kw/1350 solar panel system installed 24 months ago.

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